Obama and McCain could learn from the Mariners

I’ve met three kinds of Mariner fans: philosophers, baseball fans and front runners. The front runner is a Seattle sports fan desperate to feel the joy of winning. A baseball fan enjoys the intricacies of the game, and the philosopher finds lessons in it all. (There is a fourth category — the picnicker — who attends the game because of the ambiance of the stadium but this phenomenon is transient so I have not included this group.)

In a good season all three kinds of fan find satisfaction. There have been many, many seasons where the pleasures offered by the Mariners to their observers have been too subtle to detain the front runner. The attendance records of the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s give us some measure of the number of people in the other two categories: Roughly 5,000.

This season has been noteworthy because the team has culled from its audience not only front runners, but its woeful, error prone and too often half-hearted performance has distanced many baseball fans. They have though provided grist for the philosophers.

It seems to me that our presumptive candidates for the presidency are having Mariner moments. To me it is entirely appropriate that the selection process and most of the presidential campaign occur during baseball season. Then the hard hitting last weeks of the campaign and the sudden death election occurs during football season. Baseball season though is the time to observe and reflect on the candidates.

McCain is having the same experience as the Mariners at the beginning of this season. Before the season the Mariners thought that they were one player away from the playoffs, and they went out and got him: Erik Bedard, pitching ace.

McCain felt that he was one domestic policy away from the brass ring and stayed out to get it: Energy and the environment. He stayed out of the Senate and avoided every vote that came up in the area. Now he has an environmental and energy “vision.”

The problem for McCain occurred when he took the field. Little things popped up that seemed to spoil the moment. He went to Iraq to show his commander in chief qualities and forgot who was fighting. This reminded me of Jose Lopez looking between his legs to see the ball scooting toward center field.

The Mariner defense was supposed to be good this year and McCain was strong on war and the military. Just early season jitters or a harbinger of things to come? What happened?

The errors became infectious and others around him started making them, obscuring his “vision.”

Then, like the Mariners’ starting pitching, the “vision” started to falter. McCain, who had historically opposed off shore drilling came out for it as a cure for spiraling gas prices. When a government report said that this would not have such an effect, he said that it would help “psychologically.”  This is a bit like Bedard not making it through the third inning.

The Mariners’ season collapsed and McCain’s is just barely begun. Hope he has better luck than the home team.

There’s a little bit of Richie Sexon in Obama, who electrified crowds with talk of change and new direction and populist involvement. He was a power hitter. Richie Sexon, a power hitter,  was told that he also needed to hit for average. The team was going nowhere if he could not hit over .200. So Richie changed his stance and his approach at the plate. He became patient instead of agressive and sure enough his average did climb . . . about fifteen points. He started getting walks which was good, but he lost his power. Now he is pretty much foundering.

Obama is moving to the right, trying to convince people that he is “strong on security” and that he will not overthrow the world as they know it. Richie would tell him not to change his stance too much in trying to hit for average.

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